Optional Retirement Program (ORP)

The University of North Carolina Optional Retirement Program (ORP) is an option or alternative to the North Carolina Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) for eligible faculty and staff. Under the ORP, you control your investment choices, distribution methods and retirement goals, whereas the State controls the investments under TSERS. There are two companies that offer investment products under the ORP: Fidelity Investments and TIAA

Employer and employee contribution percentages are established by the General Assembly. Employee contributions to the Optional Retirement Program are made on a pre-tax basis as provided under Section 414(h) of the Internal Revenue Code. As a result, the University will deduct the contribution from your pay before calculating federal or state income tax withholding.

  • Currently the employee contribution is 6% and the employer contribution is 6.84%.
Mandatory Retirement Plan Decision Guide 2023 ORP Plan Summary Mandatory Retirement Plan Comparison Tool


Eligible employees have 60 days from commencing employment to elect to enroll in the Optional Retirement Program. Failure to make an election within the 60-day time period will result in automatic membership in the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS), the defined benefit plan. This consequence is irrevocable.

Note: NC State will take a “general retirement” amount of 6% of base salary during the 60-day enrollment period.  Once a retirement plan is selected, the general retirement amount is refunded and then sent to the selected vendor.

1. Complete an Enrollment Form

To  enroll in the ORP, employees must complete an enrollment form and  submit it to the University Human Resources Benefits Office at hrsbenefits@ncsu.edu, via fax at 3-2528, or by campus mail at Campus Box 7215. Forms must be received no later than the 60 day enrollment deadline. 

The employee may elect to allocate both his/her contribution and the University’s contribution to any one of the carriers or may direct his/her contribution to one carrier and the University’s to another. The employee determines the investment direction of both contributions.

2. Setup your account online with your chosen vendor.

Once you have chosen a plan and a vendor, you must set up your online account, choose your investments, and elect your beneficiaries.

Fidelity Investments (click here to access Fidelity)

  • Click  Get Started Link
  • Under Next Steps, click on Enroll Today (bottom right)
  • Click Enroll
    • Enter your SSN
    • Plan ID is already populated
    • You can now register with Fidelity

TIAA (click here to access TIAA)

  • Select North Carolina State University as your campus.
  • Select the Enroll Now button.
  • Under the Enroll Online section, click on the North Carolina State University Retirement Plans link.
  • You can then register with TIAA

3. On Campus Financial Planners

Meet with representatives from our retirement plan vendors for financial and retiremEnroll Today (bottom right)ent related advice. These certified financial advisers meet with employees at no cost or obligation to the employee and provide expert advice and resources to NC State Staff and Faculty. View Contact Information

What Is Vesting?

Employees who participate in the ORP are immediately 100% vested in their own contributions. An employee is considered fully vested after five years of participation in the ORP. If termination from employment occurs with less than five years of ORP participation, the employee becomes 100% vested in the ORP employer contribution provided all of the following requirements are met.

  • Your new employer is a higher education institution that sponsors a substantially similar or “like” retirement plan
  • The successor plan offers a “like retirement plan” that is underwritten by one of the four carriers currently underwriting the Optional Retirement Program benefit.
  • You begin participation in that successor plan as your “core retirement plan” within 12 months following your termination of eligible service in the plan (usually your termination of employment) with The University of North Carolina

Note: Future Optional Retirement Program plan distributions may be restricted by the Optional Retirement Program carrier and/or the new employer if an employee terminates from The University of North Carolina.  Employees in the ORP who leave NC State employment should complete an ORP-3 form and submit it the HR Benefits Office.

How Are My Benefits Calculated?

Retirement benefit amounts are based on the total accumulation in the account(s) including any credited interest or dividends, your age, the age of your annuity partner, if applicable, and the income option selected. There are no age or service requirements to meet in order for a vested participant to begin receiving a benefit.

What Are My Retirement Payment Options?

Each ORP carrier makes available a variety of retirement payment options designed to help employees customize their overall retirement program to meet personal and family financial needs. These may be fixed annuity payments or payments on a variable basis, or a combination thereof.

Employees may also elect to receive a lump sum distribution, as permitted by the Optional Retirement Program carrier(s), or leave the balance on deposit to accumulate tax-deferred earnings until a retirement payment option is elected. IRS regulations require an individual to begin receiving plan distributions no later than April 1 of the calendar year following the year in which the plan participant attains age 70 1/2 (if retired).

Note: To continue the State Health Plan coverage in retirement, the employee must elect and begin to receive a monthly retirement payment option from the ORP carrier.

Additional Benefits

If you become disabled, the total value of your Optional Retirement Program account is available for income benefits that will begin upon retirement.

In addition, participants of the Optional Retirement Program are covered under the North Carolina Disability Income Plan (DIPNC).

Voluntary supplemental disability benefits plans are available for long-term disability coverage; premiums are payroll deducted.  The Standard Long Term Disability Plan is best suited for those employees who participate in the Optional Retirement Program.

In the event of the plan participant’s death, the total account value (employee and employer contributions) becomes 100% vested and available to the designated beneficiary(ies) on record. Contact your Optional Retirement Program carrier to update your beneficiary designation.  If there is a need to change the beneficiary, contact the Optional Retirement Program vendor.

Retiree Health Benefits

When you retire and begin receiving monthly benefits from the ORP, you may also be eligible to enroll in the State Health Plan with the cost determined by when your employment started with the State. In all cases, the full cost of dependent coverage, if elected, must be paid by the retiree.

First Hired on/After January 1, 2021

  • First Hired on/After January 1, 2021 – If you were hired on or after January 1, 2021, you will not be eligible to receive retiree or dependent medical benefits.

First Hired Prior to October 1, 2006

  • If you were first hired prior to October 1, 2006, and retire with five or more years ORP participation, the State will pay either all or most of the cost.

First Hired On/After October 1, 2006

  • If you were first hired on or after October 1, 2006, in order to receive individual coverage at no cost, you must retire with 20 or more years of retirement service credit;
  • If you have 10 but less than 20 years of retirement service credit, you will have to pay 50 percent of the cost for your coverage,
  • With five but less than 10 years, you will have to pay the full cost for your coverage.

Based on current law, if you withdrew, transfer or rollover your entire ORP account, your first hire date is forfeited and will reset based on your re-employment date with the state. Upon termination/separation/retirement if you withdraw, transfer or rollover your entire ORP account you will forfeit your right to the State’s retiree group health plan coverage.

For more on Retiree Health Insurance, please visit the State Health Plan website.

Additional Retirement Resources

On Campus Financial Planners Guide to Investing in the UNC Retirement Programs UNC System ORP Website Retirement at NC State